India v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy, Group B, The Oval June 8, 2017

Mathews takes pride in defying expectations

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Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka's captain, hailed his players for defying expectations after their seven-wicket victory over India at The Oval kept alive their hopes of a Champions Trophy semi-final. He dedicated the performance to Sri Lanka's supporters, who made their presence increasingly felt as the game went on, as well as the victims of last week's flooding in the country.

India had looked in control after posting 321 for 6 but Sri Lanka, led by dashing half-centuries from replacement opener Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis, overhauled the highest successful Champions Trophy chase to set up a virtual quarter-final against Pakistan on Monday.

"It was a very important game for us," he said. "You know, no one really expected us to win. That took a lot of pressure off ourselves, and we just went out there, expressed ourselves and you can see what we can do when we play with a lot of freedom.

"That's our trademark, papare," he said of the band playing enthusiastically in the stands for much of the game. "They come wherever we play. The Sri Lankan people like to have fun. It was very pleasing for us to give them a win because we had some terrible times in the recent past, especially with losing a lot of lives for floods, and we are very grateful that we could give them a smile.

"It was like playing a World Cup Final. It was so noisy and a great atmosphere. We all know that all the Indians travel, and they're right behind their team. I must thank all the Sri Lankan supporters that came out here. Even though it was little numbers, it was fantastic support for us. We really thank all of them."

Angelo Mathews swivels into a pull © Getty Images

Mathews had sat out Sri Lanka's opening fixture - a heavy defeat against South Africa - due to a calf injury but contributed an unbeaten half-century on his return to help his team over the line. When asked about criticism aimed at himself and the coach, Graham Ford, for recent performances, he said he had been glad to be able to front up.

"It's always the coach and the captain. Today, once again, Kusal Perera's call [to retire hurt] was also crucial. As a captain, I had to send him in, and it would have been a few bullets fired at me if it hadn't gone too well. But that's what we are there for, to take crucial decisions at crucial times, and it doesn't matter if it fails. But, yeah, there is a lot of responsibility on the coach and the captain. So we do our very best out there, and we get the boys to do their very best, and we get the boys to try really hard, that's what we look for."

Mendis was named Man of the Match for his innings of 89 off 93 and Mathews said that he and the team had benefited from speaking to Sri Lanka's previous No. 3 before the match. "He [Mendis] met Kumar Sangakkara to get a few batting tips, and he's the king, and we all look up to him. We all get advice from him, all the batters. He taught us a lot of good things on how to play on these tracks. Yesterday the guys met him and took a lot of advice and went out there and implemented it."

Sri Lanka's victory left all four teams in Group B on two points after two games. Pakistan pulled off a surprise of their own when beating South Africa at Edgbaston on Wednesday and Mathews warned about taking preconceptions into the final round of matches.

"It doesn't matter if the opposition respects us. We are out to do a job, and we don't really think about what the opposition think," he said. "I mean, no one really expected us to win today as well, but we knew underneath that we had the talent and we had another opportunity to beat a fantastic team, which we did.

"We don't want to think too far ahead. We just want to take one game at a time. Now it's done, and we look forward to the next game. It will be the same plans, go out there, no expectations. Go out there, play with a lot of freedom. You know, if we play good cricket, I'm certain that we can beat any team."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Thuva$$$SangaFan$$$ on June 10, 2017, 18:24 GMT

    If this is the result of a few words of wisdom from sanga, imagine sanga coaching!!!!!! Man ,would be too good, SLC rope him in soon before Bangladesh take him from us too

  •   badboycricfan on June 10, 2017, 11:38 GMT

    @THEOWOLFEMAN oh no no no indian seamers have been highly overrated not slightly but highly...

  • Muhammad Nadeem Sumair on June 10, 2017, 10:33 GMT

    Well played SL. Rescpect from Pakistan

  • Azhar.Hassan on June 10, 2017, 7:31 GMT

    First of all, great performance by SL. Great chase to watch and a well deserved win. As for India, despite getting 300+, in the modern game, containment alone does not work. You need to have a bowling attack that can take wickets but they managed just one (2 being run out). They cannot rely on batting strength alone. For the next match, SA are firm favorites against India due to superior bowling lineup.

  • Azhar.Hassan on June 10, 2017, 7:29 GMT

    First of all, great performance by SL. Great chase to watch and a well deserved win. As for India, despite getting 300+, in the modern game, containment alone does not work. You need to have a bowling attack that can take wickets but they managed just one (2 being run out). They cannot rely on batting strength alone. For the next match, SA are firm favorites against India due to superior bowling lineup.

  • cricfan9906422698 on June 10, 2017, 7:10 GMT

    @CRICFAN564789 dont be so overconfident, without srilankan coaching staff and rain your team is nothing BD .yesterday attach would be a dead rubber.learn to respect other teams as srilanka have far better overall ICC record and head to head record against top teams.

  • cricfan9906422698 on June 10, 2017, 6:57 GMT

    @CRICFAN564789 seems so overconfident for on off victory over black caps???, please find SL record in ICC tournaments and compare with yours , then you will find who becomes lucky!!

  • Malaka on June 10, 2017, 6:00 GMT

    Well played SL.. you beat so called best Asian team.. Indian fans are so salty now.. its ok SA will end your pain for good.. :)

  • CRICFAN564789 on June 10, 2017, 5:36 GMT

    Local media crucified SL cricket even with RIP cartoons... When SL lost a solitary ODI to Bangladesh & Test/Odi series ended up with a 1 all draws (SL's odi series wining chance was unfortunately disrupted halting a certain win in 2nd Odi, due to rain). Now look at where BD is today .? Convincingly beating NZ in a triangular & in CT within 2 weeks, to eject NZ from semis shows how improved they are. This is what SL media & fans didn't realize when criticizing the leveled series recently at home. Luckily Mathews was not leading the side in those series, otherwise BD would have certainly won both series in SL , unless got extremely lucky like this match.

  • Sugath on June 10, 2017, 4:42 GMT

    More than all what has been said so far on how Lanka beat India, the moment of truth dawned on the Lanka 15 when the match referee barred Upul for two matches and fined the team Lanka. That gelled the team to come together realizing that this world not all that good. Then iconic Sangakkara came on to give leadership tips and how they should go about. And the result now is there to see. They did not show the hurt in their mindset and instead set about doing the great. As I can see now, if the team Lanka are to go to semi- final, final and win the cup then the moment of truth would be what happened after the South Africa match. Time will tell. Right now they should live only this moment, though planning for the future matches.

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